Sunday, August 30, 2015

US Open Preview - Djokovic Still Heavy Favorite Despite Recent Losses

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ed/US_Open_2007,_Maria_Sharapova_serving.jpg

After last year's US Open, many began to question whether Marin Cilic's triumph represented the beginning of a transition at the top of men's tennis, from the dominant Big Four to a set of young guns that included Cilic, Kei Nishikori, Milos Raonic, Grigor Dimitrov and more. However, with the exception of Kei Nishikori, who has risen to a career high ranking at number 4, other young guns have yet to challenged the likes of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray. Coming into this year's tournament in Flushing Meadows, it seems like these three players are yet again the clear favorites. But what are the odds among these elite men? Is Djokovic still the clear favorite after losing to both players in back to back finals? Will Federer's return-and-charge approach still bode well in a best of five set match in slower hard courts?

To answer these questions, I enhanced the prediction model I made for this year's Wimbledon. In accounting for player's performance in the past year, the model places more emphasis on hard court matches, quality of opposition that players have won or lost to, how close each players' matches were, and the level of tournaments players have participated in. In particular, I put special emphasis on matches played in Washington, Montreal and Cincinnati. History has suggested that players that have performed well in these tournaments have gone on to do well in the US Open. For instance, all players who have won Montreal/Toronto and Cincinnati in the same year have gone on to win the US Open title (except Andre Agassi in 1995). 

Simulating 50,000 tournaments led to the following odds of each players reaching each stage of the tournament:



Despite losing in finals as of late, Djokovic still has a 56% chance of winning the US Open. The 28-year-old Serb is having his best season since his historic 2011 breakout campaign. Given that his recent losses have come in three set matches, Grand Slam matches should give him more time to adjust to opposition tactics and ultimately come out triumphant.

Also interesting to note is that Federer's title prospects far exceeds Andy Murray's. I have frequently dismissed the common belief that Murray has a better chance than Federer, and I will reiterate here. The Swiss Maestro has won his last five encounters against the Scot, including the last ten sets, so the recent Cincinnati champion will definitely be the favorite in their potential semi final encounter.

Other interesting results include Andy Murray having a relatively low chance (48%) of reaching the semi finals. This is likely due to a potential blockbuster match against Roland Garros Champion Stanislas Wawrinka in the quarter finals. Also notice that Rafa Nadal has a surprisingly low chance of reaching the semi finals (6.9%), as he is placed in the same quarter as Djokovic. That said, he is still is the sixth favorite to win the title (1.2%), as Nadal has a tendency to peak at the latter stages. Should he get past Djokovic, his title prospects will skyrocket.

1st Round Betting Recommendations

We also sought to determine the matches that would yield the largest expected gains, according to odds reported from oddportals.com. By converting our probability to odds, we determined expected gains/losses by multiplying the difference in DataBucket odds and OddPortal odds by the probability of winning the bet. The results can be seen below:



Interestingly, betting Marco Cecchinato to win his match against soon-to-be-retiring Mardy Fish would most likely yield the largest gains, as betting companies have claimed Fish to be the favorite in this match. While Cecchinato is ranked outside the top 100, he is definitely the more physically fit player at the moment, and will more likely come out the victor in five-set Grand Slam conditions.

A general trend in these results suggest that betting odds for matches featuring the top players tend to be more aligned with DataBucket odds, while matches consisting of lower ranked player tend to be less aligned. This may be due to supply and demand factors relating to the betting market. Other attractive bets including Lucas Pouille defeating Evgeny Donskoy and Marsel Ilhan defeating Radek Stepanek.

DataBucket will be updating US Open predictions throughout the tournament. Stay tuned for updates.



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